OpenBSD current & IBM ThinkPad X20

This machine is being retired for a 15" PowerBook and assigned sentinel duty on an ADSL line.

Overall the X20 is a really nice and comfortable computer to work with, the keyboard is only slightly smaller than a normal full-size model, and it is in the usual great ThinkPad quality. In other words, the best laptop keyboard there is. At 600 MHz it's not speedy by 2005 standards, but it's enough to comfortably run X with fvwm2, firefox and a bunch of xterms, everything you need for serious hacking of (nearly) all kinds.

As usual for ThinkPads there's a "clit" instead of a trackpad, plus 3 mousebuttons so you don't have to mess around with Emulate3Buttons in xorg.conf.

The /tmp file system is mounted mfs(8) without any problems; use the following line in /etc/fstab for a 72.5 MB file system:

/dev/wd0b /tmp mfs rw,async,-s=200000,-i=512 0 0

As of 3.6-current (nearly 3.7) Java 1.4.2 and Tomcat 5.0.x works fine straight from ports, but you need the maximum memory the machine will take, 320 MB, for it to run smoothly, especially with a mfs /tmp as shown above. A patch for PostgreSQL to build the JDBC driver hasn't been committed yet.


It's been upgraded with a miniPCI NIC/modem combo (it only had a "winmodem" originally) and memory up to the maximum the machine will use has been added, but it is otherwise in a default configuration.

When running NetBSD and OpenBSD the soundcard has some problems when playing Ogg Vorbis, WAV and MP3 files, there's noise on the line, and it's not bad .mp3s or .oggs. The cause is unknown, but it may be a slightly bad driver. The FreeBSD pcm(4) driver has no such problem. All three BSDs can't play as loud as the great Linux ALSA drivers, so if you're into Hi-Fi run Linux. Or Windows.

The following PCMCIA cards has been used with good results:

The Realtek 8139 chipset is universally regarded as one of the most crappy chipsets in existence, but as long as you don't push it it's good enough.


In the beginning the battery could last for 3-3½ hours, but now, after over 3 years of constant use, the battery is dead.

The "vi keys" (hjkl, especially j) has been worn down, a harder push is needed to get the character. The machine has been used with vi(1) keybinding in the shell and EDITOR set to vim, so there's a reason. The left mouse button has lost it's click.

After about 1½ years the screen developed an annoying redish tint when it had been closed for transport. It went away after a few hours in the beginning, but now it takes at least 2 weeks for it to recede, and it never disappears completely.

To be fair; the machine has always been transported in a normal bag, not a protective laptop bag, and it's been carried around a lot.